MYRTLEFORD will unleash former Essendon champion Scott Lucas on the Ovens and Murray for the first time tomorrow.
Lucas, who played 270 AFL games for Essendon, has been named at full-forward for the Saints as they prepare to take on Lavington at McNamara Reserve.
Lucas, who will also play for the Saints against Wangaratta on Anzac Day, caught up with The Border Mail this week ahead of his first game.
“When you get back to grassroots you see how much people love the game,” he said.
It will be a footy fan’s dream if Lucas goes goal for goal against the Panthers’ own marquee recruit, Justin Koschitzke, in what is set to be a blockbuster game for the Saints.
IT’S a dumb question but the coach’s reply is patient, to say the least.
How will you play someone with 270 AFL games, a premiership, two best and fairests and 471 goals?
“I guess he’ll be up forward somewhere,” Brad Murray said.
But in the inner sanctum of the Alpine Saints, it’s not a question of where Essendon legend Scott Lucas will play, but how they will get the ball to the big target.
“With the press Lavington plays we’ve got to find the best avenue to use him and our other forwards,” Murray said.”
It’s a blockbuster game for Myrtleford, with numbers usually up at Easter.
It will be a fan’s dream if Lucas goes goal for goal with the Panthers’ own marquee recruit, Justin Koschitzke.
But from a coach’s point of view, the arrival of a player with so much experience means far more than goals.
“Everyone’s excited,” Murray said. “All the players, the club, the town as well — it’s created a bit of a buzz.
“We’re pretty lucky to have a player of his stature and I’m sure he’ll add a lot with his experience.”
It’s still well before 6pm training, and the lights are on at McNamara Reserve.
Youngsters dreaming of grand final goals have finished having a kick and are heading home on their bikes — oblivious, it seems, to the Essendon great who’s just stepped on to the turf.
But there’s already a buzz and plenty of early arrivals are keen to meet their new teammate.
First, the formalities and Lucas seems uncomfortable with the focus of the camera.
“It has been a while,” he said. “This isn’t really the way to endear yourself to your new teammates, is it?”
After retiring from AFL in 2009 Lucas spent two seasons with Greenvale in the Essendon District Football League before retiring.
“From an AFL point of view, either the club tells you you’re done or your body tells you,” Lucas said.
“The game just gets quicker, you get slower and you can’t keep up.”
There are still times he misses the AFL buzz.
“An AFL club is a great environment to be in,” he said.
“Fortunately I had a long career.
“Most players don’t analyse where they sit but, as a kid dreaming of playing AFL, to have played as long as I did is something I was proud of.
“And a premiership was fantastic — it’s why you play the game.”
Lucas was part of the Bombers’ 2000 team which under Kevin Sheedy lost one game on the way to the flag, and then made it to the 2001 grand final.
“What was different (in 2000) was we didn’t think in any game we’d get beaten,” Lucas said.
“And with that comes confidence in your teammates and what you can achieve.
“It was a very enjoyable year but, at the same time, it’s very much about winning — so you don’t take in the year itself and what it means until afterwards.”
Since retiring Lucas has been involved in player management.
But there also has been community football.
He said he had seen how football means so much to so many and that is part of the reason he’s back on the oval.
“AFL players can get caught up in their own world — it’s big business,” Lucas said.
“But when you get back to grassroots you see how much those that play love the game.
“You see volunteers doing a lot of work tirelessly and players who put in even when they have full-time jobs.
“You see just how much footy means to people.
“When I finished playing my body was sound, I’m still able to run a lot and I’m in far better shape than most other players who retire.
“I always like a challenge, like anyone who has played competitive sport.
“And I’m sure whoever they put on me will be just as competitive and keen to do well.”
Club president Bill O’Donohue said the arrival of Lucas would do more than just boost the club.
“It’s a hard working, country footy club,” he said.
“We just want to create a bit of success and do something good for the town.”
The Saints are no strangers to big names.
Gary Ablett snr played for Myrtleford in 1983 before returning to the VFL, and the McNamara Reserve has been a fertile breeding ground with Jack Crisp (Brisbane) and Matt Taberner (Fremantle) on AFL lists.
Lucas has no need to worry about endearing himself to his teammates.
Out here where there are strong Italian connections, family is everything and Lucas has been welcomed into this one with open arms.